Even if you lose your friends, don’t lose your integrity.
We need to keep growing and changing and improving in order to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Otherwise, the tendency is to stagnate, to get ‘stuck in a rut’, and become bored, apathetic or disillusioned with our lives. To be alive is an incredible gift, can we really afford to take it for granted by just trundling through our days? I don’t think anyone of us wants to do that.
Goal setting, and taking on new challenges is a good way to move onwards and upwards and helps us to live more intentionally, more fully and deeply. However, it can be quite daunting to consider setting goals, we might think we need to do ‘big’ things, make grand gestures, take great leaps forward. Yet small goals can also play an important part in rekindling our curiosity, our creativity and ‘spark’. These small goals can be so small that we don’t even consider them anything out of the ordinary, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a place in engaging our minds, our interest and our skills. By giving ourselves the chance to ‘step up’ and step forwards, without the pressure of having to do any grand things, we give ourselves the permission to set in motion the momentum that will continue to take us forwards. One small goal accomplished might well spark the motivation and inspiration to take on something new until those wonderful, creative, inspiring and well lived moments add up to an engaging and well lived, inspiring life. These little actions don’t even need to be something new, we can do things we’ve done before, but that we’ve drifted from, and so bring back a fresh dose of that creativity and engagement with our own lives.
So what might be on your ‘list’ for intentionally setting a small goal? And how might these things add up to other opportunities and new or deepening connections with other people?
I’m going to give it a go to come up with something for myself just now, and hopefully spark some inspiration for us both. Happy planning! 🙂
- Go to see a fireworks display with a friend (already in the diary! 🙂 ).
- Finish listening to the audio book I started.
- Catch up with friends over dinner, and get to know new people that my friends invite.
- I recently went to a pottery painting place and told my friends about it. One of my friends wants to go with me, and to bring a friend along who I don’t really know but have met once, a person who is very creative but in different ways from me. Who knows what opportunities of a happy, relaxing time with good conversation, creativity and inspiration, with potentially the seeds of a new friendship, might come our ways?
- Plan some small craft projects and make personalised gifts for friends.
- Write a new blog post.
- Print out photographs from this year to make an album of memories to look back on, and maybe do some creative things with them like scrapbooking, personalised Christmas photo gifts for friends, or putting them on my wall to make me smile when I remember the good times.
- Plan or get involved with a charitable event for Christmas such as the Christmas ‘shoe box’ appeals, food ‘advent calendars’ to collect items each day for homeless people or others in need.
- Write a thank you card and send it to someone to show that they are appreciated.
- Learn a new song on the violin.
- Try out another new type of craft.
- Do a jigsaw puzzle.
- Arrange a ‘games night’ and bring some friends together for a relaxed and cosy evening, which might give an opportunity to invite people who don’t yet know each other but who might ‘gel’ as friends and extend our friendship group, potentially leading to new fun times and adventures in the future. All of our friendships had to start somewhere, right?
- Tidy a small area of that room I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Maybe this will lead to a bigger home project in due course, or lots of little efforts adding up over time can lead to decluttering, reorganising and refreshing that ‘problem space’ or area in the home.
- Make time to read that book that I’ve somehow forgotten about.
- Have 15 minutes of creative writing time.
- Have a ‘colouring in’, arts and crafts afternoon.
- Visit family.
- Learn a new recipe.
- Cook something to share with a friend at work.
- Find out about a topic that I don’t know too much about at the moment and educate myself in new things.
- Set aside time to exercise.
- Set aside time to read some of the amazing blog posts from other bloggers out there! 🙂
- Plan a ‘random act of kindness’ for someone.
- Get creative with expressions of gratitude. Journal, scrapbook, write out letters, prayers, or draw a ‘gratitude tree’ and fill in new ‘leaves’ every time I want to write down something I’m thankful for and appreciative of.
- Think of 5 people I want to encourage and / or compliment and make the time and effort to sincerely encourage them.
- Have a film night by myself.
- Go out for lunch with a friend and catch up.
- Think of things I’d like to do as Christmas approaches.
- Plan out an outfit for work.
- Visit someone I haven’t seen for a while.
- Start taking a small notebook around with me to ‘doodle’ in, draw and write down inspiring thoughts and ideas, or interesting observations.
- Have a ‘musical’ afternoon with other friends who play instruments.
So there are a few things off the top of my head to help get us started. The lovely thing with little goals is that they take the pressure off us from feeling we need to take great big steps or even leaps forwards in our lives in order to make a positive change. They also, by nature being something more attainable and achievable that we can fit into our everyday lives and also include other people in, can lead to the introduction of new and special elements into our lives. For example, by trying out something new in doing the pottery painting earlier this month (which is reasonably priced and affordable), I have ignited interest with friends, and this could lead to a regular creative part of our lives where maybe once a month or every couple of months we can get together at this pottery place and be creative, chat, and bring along friends who the others may not yet know, thereby increasing and deepening our connections and bringing value to all of our lives.
Who knows what amazing things can result from the ‘smallest’ of actions, or the littlest of goals set and acted upon? 🙂
So over to you….what little goal are you going to aim for?
Followers of Christ, in a world in which we can choose so many things, let us choose the most excellent way – the way of Love. To love The Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we would want to be loved.
No one said that the most excellent way would be easy, in fact it is often a difficult path, but it is the Way most pleasing to our Creator God, Who Is Love – agape Love – sacrificial love.
It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that while we were enemies of God, dead in our sins He loved us and gave Himself for us. Our God Is at work within us now, enabling us to love.
We can’t do it on our own, but we can make the choice to ask God to enable us to love with the Love He has poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We can think of how much love was shown to us at the Cross, how much we have been forgiven, and we can honour God by choosing the most excellent way – His Way, that of Love.
Let us examine ourselves. Let us encourage each other. Let us pray for each other to be the vessels of God’s love in this broken, hurting and often unloving world.
- Has someone hurt and wronged us? Let us think of our King on the Cross, in Love taking the punishment for us, the very wrath of God that our sins deserved and instead giving us forgiveness, grace, acceptance, perfect love and new life. How can we not be humbled by His love and grace to us. How can we choose bitterness against someone He has Created, someone He loves just as much? As we think on this Truth, He will pour forth love for the one who has wronged us. Perhaps this journey will take time. Hurts caused especially in childhood can be deep and have a hold on us, I have walked through this and it is certainly not an easy path to take, but it is made possible at the Cross. Jesus Christ offers us His very life, and as we let Him in, He will change us from the inside out to be like Him, to love like Him, to think thoughts pleasing to God. Have hope, and trust Him with your hurts. He will replace fear with love for Perfect Love casts out all fear.
- Is someone holding something against us? How should we respond? Should we justify bitterness in our own hearts? No. We should open our hearts and minds to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, and choose the most excellent way of forgiving and loving our neighbour. No one said this is easy, but He Is the One working in us, gently enabling us to hand things over to Him.
- Are we tempted to justify a grudge against someone? We can choose that way, but really we should choose the most excellent way. Does God not love us when we are ‘difficult’? His love in us will help us to love and to go on choosing to love those in our lives who cause us difficulties.
- Should we only choose love when someone shows love to us? Should we only choose to show kindness or give gifts to those who say thank you to us? In this world, perhaps that makes sense, but in God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t. How many things would we lack if God withheld the good gifts He gives us daily, momently that we habitually fail to thank Him for? Do we acknowledge and thank Him for our breath, our life, our health, our clothing, food, shelter, friendships, family, employment, skills, sight, abilities, our senses, our mental health, our good times, His comfort and Presence through the hard times, His Word and Truth, His protection in a dark world? I’m sure we all forget to thank Him for everything He does for us from time to time, but He goes on giving to us, He goes on showing kindness, He keeps on loving. We should do likewise where it is wise to do so.
- Did a friend forget or choose to ignore you on your birthday? Do you choose to ‘retaliate’ with treating them the same, or do you choose to love them with Christ’s love? Choose the most excellent way, and be free from the bounds of the world’s way of thinking and living.
- Did someone selfishly choose what pleases them and disregard what matters to you? You can choose to treat them likewise, or you can choose to bring the unfairness before your merciful and loving God and allow Him to lead you the best way, and ask Him to show you and enable you how to respond.
- Isn’t there someone or some situation in your life right now, today, that is tempting you to choose an imperfect path, an unkind response, or even one that withholds love rather than specifically causes direct or obvious harm? The world tells us ‘don’t get mad, get even’. God calls us to Love. The world tells us to protect ourselves, while God’s protection frees us to rise above the shackles. We should seek His way, we should protect ourselves in Him from bad situations, relationships and company, but where we are safe to choose to reach out in love, we do not need to fear that we will be losing out – God gives grace and glory – no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
- Are you being taken for granted? Is your kindness being abused? Is someone leaving you out? Are groups shunning you from their company? Perhaps you cannot change the situation, or their response but you can find hope and strength, comfort and love in Your Loving Heavenly Father God, He will love you through it, and He will help your heart to grow strong to pulse with the beat of His Love, for Him and for others, knowing that you yourself are safely loved. We have a freedom the world cannot give us, and which the world cannot take away from us. Let us allow that love and freedom to shine so brilliantly in our lives, that those who wrong us will stand in awe of this most excellent way – the Way of Love – the Way of Christ Jesus. Be blessed. x
This verse has been silently running through my mind for the past wee while. I have often thought about it in time of need, and it has been a challenge to me personally when I have been going through difficult times. The verse is from the Bible from the letter, entitled ‘Romans’ in the New Testament (Romans 12:15), from the apostle Paul to the believers in Rome. Paul was writing this while he was in prison, and the incredible thing is that even while he was bound and in chains he knew a deeper freedom than most of us know in this life. His freedom in Christ. However, even if you are not a Christian, I think this verse has something for all of us to reflect upon through the changing seasons of life.
It’s a tiny phrase, but it says so much. Don’t you think? “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”.
I’m not entirely sure why this has been in my mind recently, however, I think it probably has much to do with seeing the contrasting seasons that some of my friends are in. Whereas previously, in earlier days, I would have been thinking of this from a more challenging place of mind and heart, when I was suffering and my friends were going through really happy times, times of joy, love and fulfilment of dreams, now I am looking at it from a different standpoint in terms of my season of life. I’m kind of ‘in the middle’ of things in terms of circumstances and wellbeing if I were to consider my experience in comparison with what some of my friends are going through. Some are rejoicing, and others are mourning. And at the moment, for the first time in a long while, despite the ups and downs of life, and as yet unfulfilled dreams, questions about the future as time passes, I’m actually doing just fine right now and making the most of things.
I have a friend who recently lost her mother. I have another friend who is overjoyed and loving life as a new mum after her season of wondering whether it would ever happen for her. I have friends who had wonderful seasons of joy, and the blossoming of marriage in their early 20’s, only to be faced with the painful sting of divorce, which was a surprise and shock to friends who know them and care for them.
I know some people for whom life has been a pretty happy ride ‘merrily down the stream’, just like a dream, as the nursery rhyme tells us. And overall most of us have a mixture of things going on. But there are seasons in life where either we ourselves or those around us could be said to be quite poignantly in seasons of mourning or of rejoicing. Mourning doesn’t necessarily relate only to bereavement. You could think of it also in terms of many of the painful depths of human experience. Mourning could be as vast ranging as the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, struggling to come to terms with your wayward adult children who have made wrong choices in their lives causing distress to those around them, it could be unfair treatment, unfulfilled longings, cruelty inflicted upon you by others, or illness, depression, losing the ability to walk, sing, smile, talk, or remember things or people you once loved.
Seasons of joy are also evident when we see them. Perhaps something broken has been restored. Maybe a fractured friendship or family relationships have been mended, and you feel a joy in contrast to the loss you once felt. Joy restored! Maybe it is characterised by accomplishment, carefree times, births and marriages, or new milestones. Perhaps a business venture or a project or a dream has come to fruition, or perhaps you have learned a new skill or lost some weight, become healthier, got fit, are challenging yourself to try new things, you feel healthy, life is going smoothly and for the most part all is well.
So, how do we relate to the contrasts in the lives of those around us? How do we “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” as we are encouraged to do?
I don’t think that there is a simple or straightforward answer, as it is a lesson that we must learn and be shaped by throughout our life’s journey on earth. One thing, however, that does really speak to me is that even if we are not sharing an experience with someone else, even if they are rejoicing while we are hurting, even if they are mourning while we are rejoicing, or are just doing alright, even though we don’t necessarily share the same experience, we do all share a common humanity. And we are called to care about each other, to be sensitive to one another, and to consider each others needs.
It can be hard to know how to support a friend when they are in mourning. But we can be with them. Maybe this doesn’t mean that we are with them physically, as that is not always possible, but it does mean that we can consider what they are going through, what they might be feeling, and how we can ease their load at least a little. We can reach out to them and show them the kindness of a friend, we could help them with their practical needs, send them a gift or a card, or if they are open to us we could simply sit there with them in the quietness of their grief, or listen if they want to talk, or hold them as their tears fall….or…..give them space. Maybe if you have gone through a similar experience, or are going through the experience with them, then you will have a better idea how to bring some comfort in that particular situation.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice can be a wonderful thing. We might ourselves be in a place of rejoicing, and life is like one big celebration in this time, but what if we are not? What if we are just doing ok, or muddling along, or struggling with pain or heartache in our own lives? We can choose to rejoice. We can choose to be kind to others, to wish them well, to love them and pray for them, we can choose to celebrate their milestones, even when we are longing for or waiting for our own. We can choose to think kindly of others. We can choose to be the kind of caring and kind person we aspire to be, even when that takes challenge or a ‘sacrifice’ on our parts. That said, it doesn’t mean that you neglect your own wellbeing. Sometimes, it is just hard, nigh impossible to show up for others if you yourself are in a difficult place in life. Be kind to yourself, be gentle, and know that you are choosing to cultivate a mindset of kindness to others…and to yourself. I personally believe that it is only possible to do this fully by the Love of Christ. However, I also know that we each bear the image of the One Who Created us, and that even those who don’t believe in Him, still have a capacity for a deep kindness to others, through our shared humanity.
If you are in a season of rejoicing yourself, try to think of a time when you were not, as long as it is ‘safe’ mentally and emotionally for you to do so. Perhaps there was a time of hardship in your life. Perhaps the thing you are rejoicing about now is something that you were longing for, or waiting for, or heartbroken about in times past. Perhaps your dreams were deferred, your hopes unfulfilled, and maybe you were in a time of sadness. Do you remember the sting of pain that you felt when those around you were rejoicing over the things that were so far off from your own life and experience? Maybe what you are celebrating now, and rejoicing over, is a similar cause of pain to someone else in a season of ‘mourning’. Maybe you can’t see the full extent of what they’re going through, of course you can’t, we can’t. But you can consider them. You can rejoice over your blessings, but you should also be sensitive to others you may unintentionally be hurting. And if you have never had such a negative experience yourself, count yourself blessed, but still try to put yourself in the shoes of others, and think about how they might feel.
Only by showing kindness to ourselves and caring about others can we begin to respect the profundity of what it means to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. xx